Shelley's Eye: Travel Writing and Aesthetic Vision

By Bradley, Arthur | The Byron Journal, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Shelley's Eye: Travel Writing and Aesthetic Vision


Bradley, Arthur, The Byron Journal


SHELLEY'S EYE: TRAVEL WRITING AND AESTHETIC VISION. By Benjamin Colbert. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. Pp. ix + 259. ISBN: 0 7546 0485 3. £45.00.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was just one of the many sightseers who poured into Europe after Napoleon's 1814 defeat, and his nomadic wanderings throughout the continent in the ensuing years might even be seen as a kind of extended Grand Tour. It might be disconcerting to think of the great poet as a mere tourist, but, strangely enough, he does exhibit some of the familiar vices of the foreign holiday-maker. On the one hand, he is inclined towards faintly embarrassing professions of love for countries of which he knows little: 'We are all Greeks', 'Thou paradise of exiles, Italy!'. On the other, he has an unfortunate tendency to bad-mouth the locals (Italians are described as 'odious' in an 1818 letter to Hogg), to look down his nose at other tourists and to surround himself with English ex-pats. More seriously, we might say that Shelley's travel writings also share the impossible dream of tourists everywhere, namely to experience something authentically foreign: the 'real' France or Italy where the tourists supposedly never go. In Benjamin Colbert's thoughtful study, it is precisely this quest for an authentic vision of Europe that characterises 'Shelley's eye'.

Colbert offers the first major analysis of Shelley's travel writings - particularly the neglected History of a Six Weeks' Tour - as well as the poet's extensive reading of contemporary travel literature. As the scope of his book makes clear, however, this is no mere travelogue but a far more ambitious attempt to situate the poet's own writings on travel within the context of travel and touristic discourse more widely. It is Colbert's thesis that Shelley's travel writings are carefully positioned between two competing visions of European travel as the Napoleonic Wars ended and the era of mass tourism began. On the one side, they valorise European travel as the means for recovering a civilised or cultivated poetic subjectivity in the post-revolutionary age. On the other, they distance themselves from the populist tourist aesthetic that enabled the more prosaic classes to experience continental travel for the first time. Perhaps more ambitiously, Colbert argues that Shelley's travel literature also participates in contemporary philosophical debates about aesthetics and perception: 'Shelley's eye' signifies the way in which all perception and expression - not simply aesthetic or touristic discourse - is implicated in the cultural conditioning of the age. For Colbert, Shelley's visionary travel poetry constantly seeks an 'alternative cultural space for authentic aesthetic vision' which squares the circle of aesthetic detachment and cultural and political locatedness.

It must be said that this is a serious and exhaustively researched book that will be of obvious interest to anyone working in the field of Romantic travel writing. As the voluminous footnotes indicate, Colbert is immersed not only in Shelley's own travel writing but Romantic travel writing more generally and he uncovers some genuinely fresh material on such figures as Birkbeck, Eaton and Eustace in what is increasingly well-trodden ground. More impressively still, this is an ambitious and interdisciplinary study that constantly seeks to link the metaphor of the European Grand Tour to the main currencies of Romantic thought from Rousseau and Burke to Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth and Byron. Yet this attempt to demonstrate the applicability of Shelley's travel writing and travel discourse more generally to wider Romantic questions of poetics, aesthetics and politics yields mixed results. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Shelley's Eye: Travel Writing and Aesthetic Vision
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.